Kathryn Abajian, English faculty member and chair of the Language Arts Department at Diablo Valley College's San Ramon Campus, has been named 2008 Educator of the Year by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce. She was honored at the chamber's annual community awards dinner in December.
Abajian holds a bachelor's degree in English and Art from Brigham Young University, and a master's degree in English- composition studies from San Francisco State University. She was an English teacher at California High School from 1980 to 2000, and taught English at Contra Costa College for two years before transferring to Diablo Valley College. In the fall of 2007 she began serving as one of two department chairs on the San Ramon Campus.
"I often hear: ‘People don't change!' but I see it every semester," Abajian said. "Students make visible changes in their attitudes, their study habits and their writing. Of course, not all students are successful, and I'm not the right fit for all students. But it really does warm my heart to see my students earnestly combing their essays for correct apostrophe use or advising each other about the coherence of a paragraph.
"I'm gratified when a student says, ‘I get it now' or ‘I've never thought about that before.' I love seeing the pride students can take in their writing when they've been genuinely engaged."
Kevin Horan, executive dean of the San Ramon Campus, said that while serving as department chair, "Kathryn concurrently co-chaired a work group charged with the analysis and reorganization of the academic department structure on the SRC. This reorganization process was no small undertaking. Due in large part to Kathryn's willingness to see the project through, the campus reorganized into four academic departments, which more effectively meets the needs of the faculty and students on the SRC."
In addition to her formal work in education, Abajian served as the education director on the Eugene O'Neill Foundation Board of Directors from 1991-2001. During her tenure in that position, she designed and coordinated Student Days at Tao House, a program for Bay Area high school students. The program continues to run annually and is the largest program the Eugene O'Neill Foundation offers. Amidst all these activities, Abajian still found time to write and publish her first book in 2005, First Sight of the Desert: Discovering the Art of Ella Peacock. She continues to write art reviews for the Piedmont Post.
"The San Ramon Chamber of Commerce has given me an honor with this designation," Abajian said. "But I'm only one of many instructors who find similar satisfaction in their efforts. The rest of the faculty and staff at San Ramon are dedicated and effective educators who deserve credit as well. This award really goes to Kevin Horan, whose enthusiasm for SRC's success has strengthened the campus community."